"Sisters, Let Us Gather at the River" by Puanani Burgess

I was at an APAWLI gathering, and called to the women, I said, "Sisters let us gather at the river."

And they came as though it was a river. You know what I saw? I saw my Japanese grandmother at the river washing rice; I saw my Hawaiian tutu cleaning the dirt off the kalo; I saw thousands coming to the river.

It was a place of peace, a place of commerce, a place where you met each other, a place where you shared stories over washing laundry, washing babies, washing rice.

And the river was a mode of transporting us to the worlds beyond that place on the river we were a part of.

It became also a place of dreams and dreaming. Because by being at the river, we all knew that it flows to somewhere. That somewhere unnamed, the river always flows, like it or not. I think that's what drives us as women to go to the unnamed places, to travel that river -- to ride that raft of dream-hope.

The river must move and you can choose to become part of it or not. You can choose to stay on the bank, You can choose never to come close to it. But our choices can never deny that the river exists.

"In each of us, there is a river." When I said that at the women's gathering, you could tell for some unknowable and un-namable reason, those women felt the river flow through them, and they responded just as they would have one hundred fifty or two hundred years ago. They just came.

And there's something about going to the river. It's purposeful. We go to the river for a reason. And sometimes, the river will teach us things that we never thought we wanted to know.

And so APAWLI for me is a river.

It has a physical presence. And that's why we come to these gatherings. It's not just a gathering of human beings. It's a gathering of histories. It's a gathering of futures. It's a gathering of all time. We represent so many, many histories. I'm traveling on this river because it's what I want to do, where I want to be. I want to experience all those voices inside of us. Every time I come, every time I work on something with you, I hear a thousand voices that I never heard before. And they become part of the story, my own and yours.

So, let us gather at the river.